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Layers of Fear: Inheritance (Video Game DLC)

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Layers of Fear: Inheritance

Layers of Fear: InheritanceDeveloped by Bloober Team

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Rated M for Mature


When I first reviewed Layers of Fear back in February, I concluded that it was a beautifully realized vision of tragedy brought down only by a few adherence to convention. It relied a bit too much on things popping out and going “boo!” The monster also felt a bit pointless, adding some tension and scares at the cost of the overall tone and logic. It didn’t ruin Layers of Fear by any stretch. It’s still a gorgeous game that maturely and intensely deals with loss, loneliness, and insanity. It blurred the lines between motivation and consequence, making “good” or “bad” a matter of our own opinion. In terms of quality narrative games, Layers of Fear was art.

I’m surprised to see a DLC pack hit the store almost half a year after the initial release. The indie game market, especially for horror, is as fickle as it is oversaturated. It’s hard to imagine anyone that picked Layers of Fear up at release still playing it, no matter how great the storytelling was. Maybe my opinion is too heavily influenced by multiplayer lifespans, where games can sometimes still have active communities a decade after release. For a strictly single player title, it takes some massive endeavor like The Witcher 3 to make me take notice of a new paid chunk of content.

But hey, I liked the original a whole lot, and it’s only 5 dollars, so what the heck! I expected more of the same, but that’s not always a bad thing. More walking through spooky surreal hallways, more fantastic visual effects, and most importantly more exceptional storytelling. It’s rare that DLC stories are as compelling as the base game, but if Inheritance is even half as good as Layers of Fear, it’s a cut above most.

Layers of Fear: Inheritance

Hurrah! More creepy art worlds!

What I found in the Inheritance DLC was an experience that—while short—was significantly better than the original in several ways. It fixed almost every problem that I had with the first. There’s no random murder monster to chase you around, far fewer jump scares, and more of the surreal madness that made the most memorable parts of Layers of Fear. It’s focused, with not a dull moment in its entire runtime.

The story of Inheritance is told from the perspective of Layers of Fear’s nameless painter’s daughter. Troubled by the memories of her upbringing, she returns to her childhood home to seek closure. You’ll explore the same estate as Layers of Fear, now long abandoned and in an advanced state of disrepair. In the various rooms, you’ll confront memories of your past, and find crayon drawings from your childhood. Some of these encounters are simple cutscenes, while others are much longer sequences of puzzles similar to the base game.

Layers of Fear: Inheritance

When I say crayon drawings, I mean the “call CPS” kind, not the “hang on the fridge” kind.

The narrative dilemma is focused on the daughter’s memories of her father’s madness, and questioning if she can ever forgive him and move on. It’s very clear he won’t win any father of the year awards, but solving puzzles will result in subtle changes that color him as either caring or cruel. There’s also a worry that the madness that plagued him might also affect you. This is always subtly looming in the background, but doesn’t take center stage. While there are a good deal of surreal dream sequences, they’re always presented as stylized flashbacks. There’s no indication that she herself believes this to all be real.

To achieve this flashback effect, many of the puzzles and challenges are played through the eyes of a child. During these sequences, you’ll only come up to eye level of a chair. This shifted dimension is effective, but I expect will lead to some division in opinion. Since there isn’t a monster chasing you around and everything is told in retrospect, there isn’t as pressing a sense of dread. You already know that you survive all of these ordeals, so being locked in a closet while your parents fight lacks the punch of being chased by your charred wife through a melting canvas world.

Layers of Fear: Inheritance

Still hella scary though.

On the flip side, I found the story to be much more relatable than the first. As I said in my previous review, I don’t really know what it’s like to be a tortured painter haunted by the memories of his disfigured suicidal wife. What I can understand is what it’s like to be a child and not knowing why mommy and daddy are fighting. We all live with familial expectations, and when the father yells at you during a flashback to stop using crayons because they are childish, it makes me remember the expectations put on me in my youth. News flash: you don’t become a Dread Central video game reviewer because you lived up to your parents’ expectations.

Seeing the story from another perspective was very effective. Inheritance tackles the same questions of loneliness, loss, and tragedy, and explores how that affects the child. I tend not to like alternate perspective narratives, as they usually just present the same story from a less interesting perspective. I don’t want to hear about Stalin’s life story from the perspective of his next door neighbor. Inheritance gets it right. The daughter’s troubles are unique, and just as crucial as her father’s. Most importantly, it actually adds a layer of depth to the story of the original.

Pound for pound, I found the sequences in Inheritance to be better versions of those in Layers of Fear. Every one of the main segments is wildly different. During a flashback of your father painting your portrait, you’ll be challenged to stare straight ahead while crazy shit happens just outside of your peripheral. During the painting segment in the studio, you’ll put together a painting piece by piece in a style of your choosing. There are a number of samey cutscenes, but each tells a piece of the story that ties together the whole picture.

Layers of Fear: Inheritance

Never before has staring straight ahead been so compelling.

I attribute a lot of the success to the brisk runtime. Overall, it should only take you an hour or two to beat Inheritance, and maybe another to find all the secrets. It’s short, but it’s also very tight. They didn’t have to pad the runtime with dull filler segments, letting them pack it with their best ideas. Some might feel like it cuts the tension and build, but I like how it gets to the point. It relies on the strength of its set piece moments, and doesn’t dilute them with fluff.

At $5, Inheritance is a no brainer for fans of Layers of Fear. It’s funny, because often the litmus test for good DLC is that it would function on its own. For Inheritance, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The relationship to the original is integral to the DLC. It’s the perfect additional story, adding something to the original without feeling necessary. You don’t need to play Inheritance to appreciate Layers of Fear, but it certainly helps you like it even more. It’s the perfect added bonus, appending the original without eclipsing it. Definitely a must buy.

  • DLC
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
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Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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